Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The runDisney #WineDineHalfMeetUp Sneak Attack

I don't have to tell you that runDisney meet-ups are probably some of the most highly anticipated social media events of any runDisney race weekend. runDisney enthusiasts forgo food, drink, and sleep to hopefully catch the Disney Parks Blog at the perfect time, so they can hopefully secure their spot on the VIP list. WELP, runDisney changed the game today. The announced the meet-up only after one teaser tweet...

Now once this tweet went out, my timeline went NUTS! Speculation. Ideas. Theories. River boat casinos! You name it, the runDisney community was all over this. Now what is interesting about this, is one this came out a little early. Typically these announcements will come out one week prior the event...we got this one two weeks early. Two, usually the teasers don't have fun graphics attached...that's when I knew something was up.

THEN, not even an hour later...this came across my iPhone...

Needless to say, I stopped what I was doing, and crafted my email. I didn't even know my fingers could go that fast. And fortunately, I was selected to be one of the 125 lucky participants who will enjoy this fun filled evening.

The purpose of my post is to really just say how awesome I thought this sneak attack was. runDisney really caught most of us really off guard today. There was no time for blog stalking. There was no time to start developing theories or assumptions as to when the post may happen. It just happened. I also appreciate that this is the largest meet-up runDisney will have hosted to date, boasting 125 spots. The Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend meet-up had 100. This allows room for some new faces to join the fun! Click here for the list of lucky attendees. They also took the attendees in the order they were received in the email box. Which means, if your email was complete and met the criteria, your name was added in sequence. 

I can't wait to attend this meet up. I land at MCO at 5:30PM on the Thursday of marathon weekend, that means I have an hour to get to my resort at the beautiful Port Orleans Riverside, change, and head to EPCOT for an evening of fun, magic, and WINE!

Who's with me? Are you ready to taste your way around the world? I know I am.

Well played, runDisney. Well played.

Monday, October 21, 2013

SportHooks Giveaway

It's officially marathon season! That can mean only a few things. Runners all over the world are completeing marathons, half marathons, and ultras that they have been preparing and training for for months. Some runners are finally achieving their goals of crossing the finish lines, and others are adding new races to their list of conquests. Whether it is one race or ten, you need an awesome place to display your achievements! A display that is unique, stands out, and makes a statement. So, if you are looking for a display to help bring that vision to life, I have you covered!

My friends over at SportHooks asked me to help spread the good word! I have always been curious as to the quality and design of SportHooks, so when my display came in I was pleasantly surprised. First off, who doesn't like getting presents in the mail, right? When I removed it from the box, I was surprised at how light it was. Although it is a light display, it still is able to maintain the strength required to hold some heavy medals. Second, the design is just spot on. SportHooks offers some runDisney themed displays for you to choose from. I chose the ten hook Magical Miles display.

 I plan on using it to hold my Dopey and Dumbo Challenge medals next year. I don't know about you, but I like to show off the ribbons of my medals. Sometimes, I find the medals are just as beautiful as the hardware. SportHooks displays make it easy for you to show off every piece of your medal. For me that is a huge plus. If you plan on taking on the Coast-to-Coast challenge next year with runDisney, they offer several Coast-to-Coast medal display options. I can honestly say I am looking forward to mounting this on the wall of the Bling Annex. My 2014 runDisney medals will look amazing on it...well the ones that will fit anyway haha. Did i mention how easy it is to install? Two screws and you're done! It's perfect for the not-so-handy like myself.

Here are a few of their designs that are available on their online store!

So, my friends at SportHooks were really awesome and want to give you a chance to win your very own medal display! This contest is open to US residence only and no purchase is necessary. Use the Raffle Copter below for your chance to win! There will be one winner, and they will be announced on Friday October 25th! Good luck :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, October 19, 2013

26.2 With Donna The Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer

It is October! Fall is here and the leaves are starting to change, the weather is cooling down, marathon season has started, and notably it is Breast Cancer Awareness month. I am sure by now you have seen many people around you rocking their pink ribbons in support of ending breast cancer. If you've been following along with me on my journey, you know that cancer is one cause that I go up for very hard. Cancer has claimed the lives of many friends and members of my family...and quite frankly I am sick of it.

A few months ago, my good friend Marcia (who blogs at Travel Run Eat!) asked me to run a marathon with her. But this wasn't just any marathon. This was one of the premiere fundraising marathons in Florida. She asked me to run with her during the 2014 26.2 with Donna Marathon to End Breast Cancer! I immediately agreed to take on the task of running through Jacksonville Florida with my friend. But as I began to research this amazing marathon, I learned so many things.

The marathon itself is named after the lovely Donna Deegan, who is a three-time cancer survivor! Donna has founded both the 26.2 with Donna marathon, as well as The Donna Foundation which is a non-profit organization that raises funds exclusively for those on the First Coast living with breast cancer. The 26.2 with Donna marathon is the only marathon in the United States that is solely dedicated to fundraising to finish breast cancer. What that means is...get ready for this because this is awesome...100% of raised funds and race proceeds for ALL 26.2 with Donna events are distributed to breast cancer research and care! Proceeds are donated to The Mayo Clinic and the Donna Foundation which helps provide temporary assistance to both men and women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer! The Donna also offers a half marathon distance as well.

So, The Donna is more than just a marathon...it's an event for change! The race takes place in Jacksonville, Florida and has some amazing coastal views including 2 1/2 miles of hard packed sand for you to experience, tailgating in the yards from the excited neighbors cheering you on, not to mention the world-class course support you will receive. From what I understand, The Donna is a Jacksonville staple and the entire community comes out to support this annual event.

I understand you may be eager or interested to run this race, but just don't think it is possible to fly to Florida in February, right? That's why I am here. This year, The Donna is offering a virtual race option! You have the opportunity to run, raise some funds, and earn the same beautiful sun-catching medal. CLICK HERE to learn more about the Virtual Donna, and I encourage you to sign up! It is for an amazing cause, and you'll earn some high-quality beautiful bling on your time on your terms :) What are you waiting for? Let's get ready to FINISH BREAST CANCER with Donna!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bank of America Chicago Marathon - Recap

What. A. WEEKEND! Wow! Where do I even start with this story! I don't think I have ever experienced anything like The Bank of America Chicago Marathon in my entire life! First off, I was given the opportunity to run as a charity runner for The American Cancer Society on Team DetermiNation! So before I go any further, I want to thank each and every one of you who helped me raise over $1,100.00 dollars for ACS. So, let's talk about the weekend.

I landed on Friday afternoon and headed to my hotel at the Hyatt Regency - McCormick Place. This was an amazing choice for hotel...it was literally connected to the convention center where the expo was being held. No need to travel, take a cab, ride the 'L'...just go downstairs and walk through the hallway and BAM! This made me happy. I entered McCormick Place and looked up and was greeted by the 'Welcome Runners' banner suspended from the ceiling. I knew I was in for something special. I knew this event was going to be unlike anything else I have ever experienced. I saw the banner and instantly got chills, and a little misty eyed.

I entered the expo and proceeded to the bib pick-up section. What I REALLY liked about this race is we received a participant book in the mail which had our participant pick-up QR code on the back. If you had an iPhone, they actually enabled a Passbook ticket you could use! As a techy type of guy...this made me very excited and I opted for this option. Once they scanned me in, it sends a message to the next station who pulled my envelope and had it ready for me! That blew my mind! I wish more races would adopt this technology! It streamlined packet pick-up and made it simple, fast, and easy. 

So after I picked up my packet, I went to get my t-shirt and gear bag. Then I wandered around the expo. I wanted to take in every single thing! I ended up buying a new pair of Newton Energy shoes...which I raced in and LOVED! Meanwhile, I met up with fellow runner and friend Justin and we chatted and walked around for a bit :)

Before I left for the day, I had one thing I had to do. I had to say hello to Bart Yasso. Bart is a fan of my blog (which blows my mind completely) and always has wonderful and encouraging things to say to me via social media and some great phone chats he has been generous enough to have with me. So I made my way over to the Runner's World booth and there he was! He knew me by name (which again blew my mind), shook my hand, we had some awesome conversation. He signed my bib which just made my day, signed a copy of his book, and snapped some photos. Bart is so awesome!

After that I took my shoes back to my hotel and wound down for the evening. That concluded day one. Day two was a fun day for me! I woke up so energized and so full of life I knew I just HAD to get in a shake out run. So I laced up the new foot candy, and headed out the door for a short 2.5 mile shake out run. The weather was beautiful, the air was fresh, and I honestly felt like I could run for hours...but I decided to save that for Sunday.

After my shake out run, I received word that my twin Marcia from Travel Run Eat had arrived in Chicago! She was here to do two things; 1. Celebrate myself and fellow running friend Katie during our run, and 2. Promote the 26.2 With Donna - The Marathon to End Breast Cancer which I will be running in February in Jacksonville. Me and this wild lady always have the most amazing time together! I haven't seen here since Boston so naturally we laughed and chatted about all the things!

After that, I showered and went with my friends to grab some brunch, then headed back to the expo! I met up with Marcia and another #CorralG sister of mine Katie! I saw Katie the day before but now it was just the three of us, and we got the opportunity to catch up, laugh, tell some inside jokes, and just enjoy our afternoon before the race.

After some fun time with the ladies, we went back to our rooms for a bit before heading out to Gino's East for our pre-race dinner. This was awesome for us to just sit down, chat, and just be with one another. Remember, when complete strangers come together and run 26.2 miles together like we did in January, a bond is formed. And every time we see one another or run together, that bond is strengthened. We sat at dinner and encouraged one another, talked about our race strategies and goals, and ate a lot of deep dish pizza! Then we headed home to prepare for our big day. Marcia was not running but she was there to be one hell of a cheerleader! 

October 13th, 2013 at 0530 Hours. The time had come. The moment 45,000 runners were waiting for. The moment to rise, and dress for what for some of us would be the race of our lives. I put on my INKnBURN, did my pre-race dance and headed to the lobby! Upon reaching the lobby, I run into my good running friend Connie! Chicago was her very first 26.2 distance. I am so proud of her. She is really one awesome person!

Then I met up with Marcia and Katie and we headed to the shuttle which would whisk us away to the start line at Grant Park. Luckily, that wasn't to far from the hotel but it was nice to have a short little ride there instead of walking :)

Arriving at Grant Park that morning was an interesting feeling. I was overwhelmed with a wide gamut of emotions. I was excited, nervous, scared, humbled, and curious all at the same time. This was no ordinary race. This race felt and looked different. Walking to the gear check area located next to Buckingham Fountain, the only thing I could sense was this experience was becoming REAL. I was here, suited up and ready for the marathon of my life. I had no idea this would effect me in the way it did. I was really taken back...in a good way.

I walked to my corral (which was G...how funny) and located the 4:30 pacer, whose name was Jerry. Jerry had a team of two other pacers with him, and they talked to us about the strategy for the race. It was really interesting hearing his perspectives on the course and the strategy for achieving success. Before I knew it, the race started. The Elites were off like gazelles, and the first wave of runners had stormed the streets of downtown Chicago. At this point, I did something I never do, I turned my phone OFF. People that know me, know that is like taking my arm off. I wanted to focus on the race. Next, it was time for wave two to head out...and we did! The second I crossed the start line I felt a huge rush of adrenaline. The nerves were gone. This was MY race, and like I explained via social media before...I wanted to enjoy every single mile. I needed to focus on my pacing, my breathing, and signs of required hydration of nutrition intake. This was an amazing decision.

So as you could imagine, I didn't take any photos while I was running. I was busy looking around and really seeing the city on foot. No better way to sightsee in my opinion. The race passed through 29 neighborhoods of the city, each one with a different personality and energy about them. I never realized how diverse Chicago really is. If you can name it, we probably ran past or through it. We encountered landmarks such as Millenium Park, The Willis Tower (formally the Sears Tower), The Loop, Lincoln Park, University Village, Chinatown, The Chicago Theatre, and many many more! This marathon is exactly as awesome as you can imagine. First, every single street on the route, ALL 26.2 miles had spectators on it! That is A LOT of people! Every street in every neighborhood had people out cheering us all on. We owned their city for the morning, and they were happy to let us know it. The energy and the support was something I couldn't even imagine. The aid stations were run with precision and the volunteers were amazing. The race day weather was in the high 60s with plenty of gentle sun. It started to warm up around 11:30 but the weather couldn't have been better for us! 

I paced with the 4:30 pacer for the first 18 miles of the race, then I felt my legs start to tighten up so I modified my stride and slowed down. By this time, I am VERY happy with my performance so I treated myself to a walk break. After that, I had my rhythm down and just paced myself through the rest of the race. I didn't experience to much pain which was new for me and exciting. I was focused on finishing this race in under 5 hours, and that dream came true. I finished the Bank of America Chicago Marathon with an official time of 04:54:19. I came across the finish line and the volunteer placed the medal around my neck and I cried. I was so happy. Not only did I reach my goal of going sub 5, but I did it on an AMAZING course! A World Marathon Major course at that. If you're going to go big, do it at a Major I suppose.

I was so happy. I still am happy. Chicago is an amazing race. A life-changing race in my opinion. Sometimes, that is all we need. A good run to help center our minds and spirits so we can move forward through life with tuned in spirits. This race did that for me. I have never been so happy. I was so happy I did something post-race I have never done, I got my free beer!!!!!! And it was so good! Why haven't I done this before??? Maybe I will reserve the beer for races where I PR. Something to consider LOL.

If you are ever given the opportunity to run Chicago, DO IT! Now the next question is, when can I do it again? I Owned Chicago, and I want to thank all of you for your encouragement and love throughout this journey! Each of you has made it worth while. I do this for you, and although I ran this race for me...you were with me. This race changed everything for me. I now have a structured training plan to ensure I not only get faster, I get stronger. Victory tastes good, but you must stay focused on your goals if you want to continue to reap the rewards of your efforts! I'm ready and I hope you are ready to join the journey with me!

Thank you Chicago!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Rock 'N' Roll San Jose - Race Recap

It is no secret that I am a big fan of the Rock 'N' Roll race series! In fact, I have had the chance to rock six cities in three different states over the past 16 months! I have found that these races are pretty much well organized, and full of some amazing fun energy. This past Sunday's San Jose half marathon was no exception.

So, on Saturday morning I got up bright and early and headed out on my five hour drive to San Jose. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Then I realized something...I actually don't care for road trips. In fact, I am alone on the 5 and there is nothing to look at except for dust and what I think were fruit trees. Needless to say, the drive was a little boring. But I had my coffee and some great tunes so I had my own little jam session in the car. In case you were wondering, I was totally listening to some throwback 90's jams.

On the road

Once I arrived in San Jose, I eventually made my way to the expo. I took care of the usual activities, bib pick up...lime green. T-Shirt pick up, loved the design. That is another thing to note and I just gotta put it out there...Rock 'N' Roll always has the best shirt designs! Just sayin'. The expo was well organized and pretty easy to navigate. Something I noticed was they had lots of vendors selling or promoting products that were actually practical! Not a lot of excess vendors just to take up space, so I appreciated that. I made my way to the Rock 'N' Roll booth at the expo where I ran into some familiar faces and even met some new folks!

After the expo, I grabbed some Philz Coffee, some dinner, and made my way to my hotel for some much needed rest. I knew I had a big day in the morning. Running 13.1 miles is never easy so I wanted to make sure I was mentally ready for the day...I mean what a commute right?

I woke up bright and squirrely on Sunday ready to race. I got dressed, checked out of my hotel, grabbed some much needed coffee (which is usually a pre-race no no for me but a guy needed some coffee) and headed to Downtown San Jose. The traffic was easy and the street closures were pretty well managed. For someone who has never driven in San Jose before, I found my way around pretty easily...and the traffic enforcement was really helpful. I parked and made my way to McCormick and Schmick's for the InTune pre-race VIP treatment. It is always nice to have private gear check and early morning hydration available. Then I made my way to the start line. I decided to rock my new INKnBURN Robot kit this weekend, matching it with my Lust shorts. My outfit was a HIT! Lots of interested folks wondering why this six foot 2 tall robot was walking up and down the street.

Before I knew it, it was time to rock the town! I lined up in my corral and got my playlist all set up. I noticed the two hour pacer was further forward than I anticipated...I shouldn't have let this discourage me but it did. Once I realized where the pace team was I instantly went into internal panic mode and when it was our turn to head out....all my pacing lessons...out the window. Whoops. Running across the start line is always such a rush...that may explain my new mile PR at mile 1. Once I saw what my pace was, I knew I was in trouble. Bring on the severe cramp at mile 2. Luckily, I was able to get it to pass and release rather quickly. After that, my pacing lessons came rushing back and I locked into a solid 9:45 comfortable pace for the remainder of the race. It was awesome running into some familiar faces on route, such as Francis who was rocking his 8/1 intervals!

The race was really fun! The route is flat and fast! So if you are looking for a PR course, this is seriously it! It runs through some beautiful neighborhoods and scenic parts of town! Another great perk about this race is there is plenty of shade when you are in the neighborhoods. The streets are lined with trees, which helps on days that can be a little warm. San Jose also takes the prize for the most creative costume for a spectator! I found Kevin from Disney/Pixar's Up! This made me LAUGH!

All in all, I finished in under 2:20 so it was an average time for me. I am still in search of that sub 2, and again, I am not that far off. Focus at the beginning is what will make that happen. Can't jump the gun the way I did...just made for a crazy morning haha! But I have zero complains about this race! Course support was great, logistically it was laid out rather nicely, and of course the bling was beautiful! Way to go San Jose!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Music, Running, And The Symphony of Synergy They Create

What transformed from an Ambassador assignment for INKnBURN, actually sparked some inspiration...so naturally I had to let it all out and share it with you.

The INKnBURN Ambassadors are often asked to participate in some fun/interesting assignments which help us showcase the brand we all love so much. The most recent assignment was to take a photo of us doing something that enhanced our running. Normally, a spark of creativity hits me right away, but this assignment was a little different. It took me a while (two weeks actually) to figure out how I wanted to approach this assignment. I wanted to be 100% genuine in my response so I pondered. Then tonight, it hit me over the head like a refrigerator to Roger Rabbit's noggin. MUSIC.

It is very seldom you will see me running without music of some kind being pumped into my skull. I have run without tunes, and even enjoy the quiet time on certain occasions...but normally I have tunes with me. Let me share a story with you.

Music has always been my first love in terms of hobbies and skills. I mean, I have been singing ever since I could remember. I always felt the draw to the stage and to sing. From that love, came my love to understand music theory. I wanted to understand the language of music. What it was, why is was designed the way it was. Why and how can music take control of your emotions and convey such an emotional response? I needed to know. So naturally, I studied it. Fast forward to my high school years when my good friend Scott introduced me to radio broadcasting, turntableism, and audio imaging and design. Imaging became my strong point. Building radio spots, creating a brand, and a sound. This is what was in my DNA. I often tell people I read two languages, English and Audio Waves.

Clearly, that was not the career path that I chose and I have no regrets about the choice. I have my own fun ways of using music as a creative outlet, so it isn't a wasted talent I assure you.

When I found running, running gave me the same rush. I instantly felt connected to my inner-self. I felt comfortable and happy. The minute I plugged in a playlist I threw together and went out for a run was the day I knew something incredible had occurred. I knew that at THAT moment that the synergy that was created within my spirit was something so real, so raw, so, real. It reminds of the Disney/Pixar movie 'Ratatouille' when Remy is explaining what happens when he eats food. An incredible symphony of flavors and emotions sweep over him.

Same thing with me...minus the food. I see colors. I feel emotions. I honestly feel like I have connected with my true self, and THAT ladies and gentleman is the moment when I lock in and experience my own personal Nirvana.

Running and Music are two things in my life that I cherish. Remember a few weeks ago when I had my ear infection? I wasn't mad about the ear infection. I was mad that it was inhibiting my ability to hear, to listen, to experience! It would be like having a foot injury (which I do not have). Damn the injury, I can't run! Now let's hope both don't go at the same time, because then you'd have to roll me into Betty Ford. Positive thoughts only.

So, I share that story with you tell you that music and running for me are more than just hobbies. For me, they are a way of life. I survive and thrive on them. What do you thrive on?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

THANK YOU! Chicago Marathon Fundraising Goal MET

WE DID IT! Today marks a wonderful milestone for me! I reached my goal of $1,100.00 for the American Cancer Society! I will run 26.2 miles next weekend during the Bank of America Chicago Marathon! This milestone could not have been reached without all of your support, donations, and well wishes. I am very grateful, and I speak for the people your donations will help as well! I am sure they appreciate it as well.

I was reading the donation log prior to reading this and some of you wrote some really awesome and encouraging comments to me. I am going to take them and turn them into some sort of collage which I will share on a later post. I tell you all the time, but you guys are just so awesome! This really means the world to me!

Now, after I return from Chicago I will be randomly drawing two names from the list below...each of these wonderful donators will receive $50.00 to INKnBURN as a thank you from me to you!

So THANK YOU to those that donated! Here is Sharp's Honor Roll and personal thanks!

Morgan Crutchfield                
Patty Holliday                        
Linda Carrasco                     
Joe Rainone                           
Marcia Barton                     
Terry Palomino                     
Sandra Ady                           
John Yarber                          
Candace Harmon                 
Elcin Haskollar                    
Dan McNeely                      
Rachel Boggs                      
Kim Kijanka                       
Tracy Garcia                       
Connie Kosberg   
Cyanna Demchak
Scott Hoiem
Paul Mathias
Tracy Burwell
Ty Parkes
Jeffrey Au Spafford
Kristie Macris
Kimberly Markey
Adam Chamberlain
Nicole Glass
Rick Stiles
Benny LeMaster
Katie Preston
Krissy Murphy
Andrea Miller

Again, from the bottom of my heart... THANK YOU!!!!!